On Monday morning, 15 September , after
celebrating Mass for the sick in Lourdes, at the end of his
Visit to France the Holy Father went to the Antoine Béguère
Stadium where he embarked on a helicopter to Tarbes-Lourdes
Pyrenees Airport. The Farewell Ceremony took place in the
pavilion of honour where the aircraft was parked. The Pope was
greeted by Mr. François
Fillon, the French Prime Minister. Political and Civil
Authorities were present to see the Pope off. As well as the
local Bishops and the President, Vice-President and the
Secretary General of the French Bishops' Conference. After his
farewell Discourse, the Holy Father departed on an Air France
flight to Rome's Ciampino Airport, where he arrived just over
two hours later. The following is a translation of the Pope's
Address, which was given in French.
Mr. Prime Minister,
Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Civil and Political Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
As I depart —
not without some regret —
from French soil, I am most grateful to you for coming to bid me
farewell, thereby giving me the opportunity to say one last time
how much this journey to your country has gladdened my heart.
Through you, Mr. Prime Minister, I greet the
President of the Republic and all the members of the Government,
as well as the civil and military Authorities who have spared no
effort to contribute to the smooth progress of these
I hasten to express my sincere gratitude to my
brothers in the episcopate, especially to Cardinal Vingt-Trois
and Bishop Perrier, as well as to all the members and staff of
the Bishops’ Conference of France. It is good to be here among
I also thank warmly the mayors and the
municipalities of Paris and Lourdes. I remember too the members
of law enforcement and all the countless volunteers who have
offered their time and expertise. Everyone has worked devotedly
and whole-heartedly for the successful outcome of my four days
in your country. Thank you very much.
My journey has been like a diptych, the first
panel of which was Paris, a city that I know rather well and the
scene for several important meetings. I had the opportunity to
celebrate Mass in the prestigious setting of the Esplanade
There I met a vibrant people, proud of their
firm faith; I came to encourage them to persevere courageously
in living out the teaching of Christ and his Church.
I was also able to pray Vespers with the
priests, men and women religious, and with the seminarians. I
wanted to affirm them in their vocation in the service of God
I also spent an all too brief yet intense moment
with the young people on the square in front of Notre Dame.
Their enthusiasm and affection are most encouraging.
And how can I fail to recall here the
prestigious encounter with the world of culture at the
Institut de France and the Collège des Bernardins? As
you know, I consider culture and its proponents to be the
privileged vehicles of dialogue between faith and reason,
between God and man.
The second panel of the diptych was an
emblematic place which attracts and fascinates every believer.
Lourdes is like a light in the darkness of our groping to reach
God. Mary opened there a gate towards a hereafter which
challenges and charms us. Maria, porta caeli! I have set
myself to learn from her during these three days.
The Pope was duty bound to come to Lourdes to
celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions.
Before the Grotto of Massabielle, I prayed for all of you. I
prayed for the Church. I prayed for France and for the world.
The two Eucharistic celebrations in Lourdes gave
me an opportunity to join the faithful pilgrims. Having become
one of their number, I completed all four stages of the Jubilee
Way, visiting the parish church, the cachot and the
Grotto, and finally the Chapel of Hospitality. I also prayed
with and for the sick who come here to seek physical relief and
spiritual hope. God does not forget them, and neither does the
Like every faithful pilgrim, I wanted to take
part in the torchlight procession and the Blessed Sacrament
Procession. They carry aloft to God our prayers and our praise.
Lourdes is also the place where the Bishops of France meet
regularly in order to pray and celebrate Mass together, to
reflect and to exchange views on their mission as pastors. I
wanted to share with them my conviction that the times are
favourable for a return to God.
Mr. Prime Minister, Brother Bishops and dear
friends, may God bless France! May harmony and human progress
reign on her soil, and may the Church be the leaven in the dough
that indicates with wisdom and without fear, according to her
specific duty, who God is! The time has come for me to leave
you. Perhaps I shall return some day to your beautiful country?
It is indeed my desire, but a desire I leave in the hands of
God. From Rome I shall remain close to you, and when I pray
before the replica of the Lourdes Grotto which has been in the
Vatican Gardens for a little over a century, I shall think of
May God bless you!